Researchers have developed a type of transparent wood that they believe would be a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to plastic.

Source: TEDx Talks/YouTube

Researchers from the Institute of Wood Science and Technology in Bangalore, India, have developed a transparent wood by removing the lignin in the wood and replacing it with epoxy.

The study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment that accompanies the new product, states that researchers believe the material could replace glass and plastic in things like car windshields, transparent packaging, and even biomedical devices.

Although transparent wood is not a new creation, recent developments have allowed the product to become lighter, stronger, and perform much better. When researchers before have tried to remove lignin from wood, it has been necessary to use harsh chemicals. However, now they have been able to do this in an environmentally friendly way.

“Transparent wood as a material can replace the environmentally harmful petroleum-based plastics, such as polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), acrylic, and polyethylene,” said Prodyut Dhar, an assistant professor who co-authored the study.

“Plastics are used as a substitute for glass, which is naturally fragile. However, transparent wood is an even better alternative from an ecological perspective as observed in our life-cycle analysis.”

Recently, researchers from the University of British Columbia developed a cellulose film that looks and behaves like plastic but is completely biodegradable. To create the product, they used wood fibers from forest waste in a solution of cold sodium hydroxide along with some mild mechanical blending. The process creates a plastic-like film that is strong, translucent, and water-resistant.

Globally, we produce 300 million tons of plastic every year, 78 percent of which is NOT reclaimed or recycled. Around  8.8 million tons of plastic get dumped into the oceans every year! 700 marine animals are faced with extinction due to the threat that plastic poses to them in the form of entanglement, pollution, and ingestion. 50 percent of sea turtles have plastic in their stomachs. By 2050, 99 percent of all seabird species will have ingested plastic waste. According to a study by the World Economic Forum, there will be one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish by 2025, and if things go on business as usual, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.

Read more about how companies like Facebook, Tupperware, Google, Dove Budweiser, Carlsberg, and FIJI Water are working towards reducing plastic pollution. Places around the world like Tel Aviv, California, Baltimore, Scotland, and many more are banning various single-use plastics, and others are coming up with creative ways to recycle and use plastic waste.

There are products you may be using or habits you may have that contribute to plastic pollution. Learn more about how the use of Teabags, Cotton Swabs, Laundry, Contact Lenses, Glitter, and Sheet Masks pollute our oceans so you can make more informed decisions going forward. There are also numerous simple actions and switches that can help cut plastic out of our lives including making your own cosmetics, shampoo, toothpaste, soap, and household cleaners, using mason jars, reusable bags/bottles/straws, and avoiding microbeads!

To learn more about the impact of plastic waste, please read the articles below:

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